Interview with Jon Hamm

BATD ON Aug 05, 2012 AT 12:49 pm

Jon Hamm

I met Jon Hamm in the Soho Hotel to discuss the film he co-produced and starred in with his long term girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt, Friends With Kids. I’d actually seen the film for the first time last year when it had its debut at the Toronto Film Festival last September, it was followed by an on-stage Q&A with Jon, Jennifer and two of the film’s co-stars Megan Fox and Adam Scott who play their partners in the film.

When most of us think of Jon Hamm we think of the handsome, sharply dressed Don Draper in Mad Men, shaking hands with the actor you instantly know you are meeting someone far more relaxed and more ruggedly handsome than you would expect. He was wearing a blue and white linen shirt and sand coloured casual trousers, his hair was natural and without any product, as he ran his hands through it many times I noticed one or two grey hairs, but really he’s just perfect, I tried my best not to swoon too obviously.

Jon Hamm was very polite and friendly, very easy to talk to and chatted openly and laughed a lot, when I told him I’d seen Friends With Kids in Toronto he said, “oh, that’s good and thank you..” he seemed genuinely pleased and very proud to talk about this film.


Batd: How different was it being in Toronto for Friends With Kids to being there just a year earlier with Ben Affleck’s film The Town?

Hamm: The good thing about both of those experiences is that I was very proud of both films, in all honestly I’ve never had anything to talk about that I’m embarrassed about, or not proud of so that’s really cool. But there’s a big difference being there under the auspice of a big film to an independent, by their very nature they have a lot more capital to spread around. The biggest difference for me was that when I got to Toronto for The Town it was at the end of a six country tour and I was running on empty but for Friends With Kids that was it.

Batd: Everyone seemed to be beaming on stage for the Q&A, you all looked really happy
Hamm: We were all very excited. We literally got the dvd to the festival right up to the wire, the fact we got it there, there was something there when we pressed play, and the fact that people seemed to enjoy it, that’s probably why we were smiling so broadly. We really felt like we’d snapped the tape on the finish line.

Batd: How proud are you of Jennifer, your girlfriend?
Hamm: I’m very proud of her, she basically had 3 full time jobs on this project actor, producer and director, well 4 as the writer but that was already done by the time we started shooting. And you are managing a lot of people when you are making a film, managing your energy and people, the department heads, money men and actors, so you’re the leader. You are hearding everyone around and saying let’s go, and especially and with an independent film there’s not a lot of wiggle room. You can’t say that’s ok we’ll get that again tomorrow. and we were shooting in NYC in one of the coldest winters on record and it was a challenge But I was.., I don’t want to say surprised because Jen never surprises me because I’ve learnt to expect the best from her, but I was impressed and I was honestly inspired by her, she was the best kind of director. She lead by example, she was the first one on the set, she was always chipper, she was always in a good mood always ready to go, always knew her lines,

That kind of stuff goes a long way, I know a little bit about it from being a lead of a tv show of leading by example and hoping other people follow your lead but it really does go a long way

Batd: Those small things can make a big difference
Hamm: Sure and especially at a low budget level, there’s not a lot of room for bullshit, you have to distill everything down to its essence and move forward.

Batd: And you were co-producing did you get involved in finding the cast?
Hamm: We very much did that together, Jen and I spearheaded that and the money raising effort and then the casting.
Once we started principle photography I took my hands off and we kept a producer and a line producer, but my job was done by then until post production happened and then it was watching edits and talking to people about music and organising festival rights etc it was a lot of work but it was incredibely gratifying.

Batd: How did you survive the babies and children on the set?
Hamm: First of all that kid is the most adorable baby on the planet, but we got very lucky with the main kid who played Joe for the majority of the film, there were 3 who played Joe, an infant and a toddler. The woman who worked in production on legal, it was her baby we needed a baby and we said your baby’s really cute and it happens to look exactly like Adam Scott can we use it, and she said yes go ahead. And this little kid was really cute, he was present and sweet, it’s really long hours and there’s very specific rules for when you can use kids on set, so we were very lucky with him.

Batd: Did it make you broody?
Hamm: If you ever want to have children you probably shouldn’t work with them on a film set, that’s definitely not the thing that gives you the impetus to have them, being surrounded by them and just waiting for them to say a line. The funny thing we learnt about toddlers on a movie set is to shut them up you hand them an iphone and they are remarkable on it, these are 2 /3 year old children.

Batd: So do you babysit for your friend’s kids?
Hamm: No

Batd: Is that a rule?
Hamm: I am a little old to babysit to be honest, and unless you’re a grandparent it’s really not that great, I’m an uncle.

Batd: So as a couple without kids, what do you get to do that your friends may be jealous of?
Hamm: Well we get to spend Jubilee weekend in London, (and I know they did as someone on twitter told me they spotted them on Chelsea Bridge watching the flotilla and they looked just as frazzled as the rest of us, although my guess is they looked a lot better looking that anyone I saw in a plastic cagoule) And we were just in Southern Italy on the Amalfi coast for a week before this. Part of being an actor is to be available on a moment’s notice, for example I’m starting a project here on Monday for 3 to 4 weeks, called The Young Doctor’s Notebook it’s for Sky Arts, it’s myself and Daniel Radcliffe.

You gotta pick up and go, it doesn’t preclude having children, of course you can pick up your children and take them with you, but it makes it a little easier, there’s just another level of organisation and I am a horribly unorganised person, terribly so.

Batd: Jen looks like a very organised person, the way she puts herself together …
Hamm: Well there you go look at me. (he pulls against a casual linen blue shirt and I thought, there’s nothing wrong there at all)

Batd: She doesn’t dress you?

Hamm, (he laughs) No she doesn’t dress me. Having kids, it’s something we’ve never ruled out.

Jon Hamm

Batd: You must be ambashed by these questions at the moment as a couple with this movie, especially Jen?
Hamm: It is a very hot button topic. There is a bit of a curious thing when certain women are pushed on the question, on some levels it feels like there’s an expectation and my take is that I don’t think everybody necessarily should have kids. Some people do. I’m glad my Mother did or we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.

Batd: I’m glad your mother had you, (I may have said that rather too eagerly and gratefully but he gets it and laughs too)

Hamm: But it’s one of the things the movie addresses, maybe it‘s not for everyone and it is a decision that is not to be entered into lightly, at least that’s one of things my character says to Jules and Jason, “did you even think about this?”
Now we have these terrible programmes on reality tv that celebrate it, Teen Mom, Octomum, you’re having children to be a celebrity, that doesn’t bode well for anybody in the equation especially the child. And this reality engine just chews these people up and spits them out and I feel very concerned. I don’t want to be one of these people who is like an old man standing on his lawn and shaking his fist, but it just seems very irresponsible.

Batd: Do you feel that the movie is carrying a message from Jennifer?
Hamm: No, if Jennifer wants to get a message to me she knows where I live, she certainly doesn’t need to raise several million dollars and make a movie about it, she can just walk over and talk to me. And we’re pretty good at communication as well. We wanted to make this movie because we thought it was an interesting story and it was something we’d watched a lot of our friends go through and at a certain level of our lives. There are times in our lives when there are these watershed moments, when you grow up in your 20’s there’s that summer when you go to 5 weddings, and in your 30’s there’s the summer when you feel like you’ve bought 5 baby shower gifts. Then there’s the second baby that comes and then the divorce and then the second marriage. There are these sign posts in everyone’s life, especially in western culkture and we thought it would make an interesting story and we hope we covered it.

Batd: What are the important qualities in a relationship, to be a good couple do you have to be friends?
Hamm: Oh definitely, what the movie says is a relationship isn’t just based on sex or just physical attraction, it’s not based just on being friends either, it’s a combination of all those things. When Jason says to Julie, “I just don’t think about you in that way” she’s devastated, because she thinks this guy’s not attracted to me, honestly not physically attracted to me, and when you are sitting next to Megan Fox you think oh ok, well fine.
But as Adam’s character goes through the realisation and comes to what I think is a beautiful scene at the end, I just didn’t realise in the end all the other stuff is the important stuff not the stuff I thought was. I think that’s a mature approach to relationships.

We see it with O’Dowd and Maya’s characters they fight and they throw things at each other and she calls him a douchebag and he spends too long in the bathroom but they love each other and they love the kids, and they’re still turned on by each other. The opposite is the case with my character and Kristen Wiig’s, it starts as this very sexy physical relationship and fizzles out, so I think we tried to portray relationships as honestly as we can and we try to say there’s also a lot of ways to get to the end, which is to be happy.

Batd: I asked Jen if she’d let you direct a project she’d written as she said how much you’d enjoyed directing Mad Men?
Hamm: It really depends on the project, directing a film and a TV show are very different endeavours. With a film you are building a train from the ground up and then pushing the train down the tracks. When you’re directing TV you’re trying not to push the train off the tracks, as the train’s already going you’ve got to make sure you’re doing the what the creatives and network want.

I found it eye opening, an incredible learning experience, it really broadened my appreciation for everyone’s work on the show. I got to see a lot of the actors from a perspective I never got to see. Mostly I just see them when I’m in scenes with them I never really see them apart from behind the monitor but rarely. Especially with the control of asking can we do it a bit differently, and all our incredibly talented crew watching how hard those guys work. As an actor sometimes in your darkest moments you think this is all done by elves but somebody designed this, then a construction crew came in cut wood and found wallpaper and built it.

Batd: Your apartment with Megan is amazing.
Hamm: And I was the first person to direct that season, so it was all brand new and it was all a work in progress, it wasn’t even finished when we started shooting so it was very exciting.

Batd: Did you feel differently being Don after directing or did you just slip right in to character?
Hamm: I just slipped right in, that’s pretty easy for me, I’ve been in the same place for quite some time, I love going to work, I love the people I work with, we’re very, very close friends so it’s fun and it’s a relatively short space of time that we get to work together and I love telling my story.

Batd: How do you feel about Don Draper’s character evolving?
Hamm: It’s been a very interesting season, with a foreboding with a sense of everything is ok, if everything is fine in any other show that’s great but in our show it means something’s coming. And we start to see some of that come into fruition when Peggy quits and when Joan makes a decision to do what she has to do to get to a different place in the company, that felt very watershed to me. When I read it and even more so when I saw it and there’s more to come. The way the seaons are usually constructed are like a novel, there’s a lot of preamble and there’s a climax and this season is no excpetion

Batd: And if you had anything in common with Don Draper what would it be?
Hamm: We have similar hair.

With that our time was up, he had been incredibly charming and I thought I bet you and Don Draper have the same presence in a room too, but that’s really about it for what he may have in common. When I next watched Don in Mad Men I didn’t feel like I’d met him at all, in fact not even the hair looks the same.

Friends with Kids is out June 29th in the UK, it’s very funny, with practically the cast of Bridesmaids is in it, plus the very funny Adam Scott, I’ve seen it twice and could watch it again. Great script, excellent cast and funny.

Watch the Trailer for Friends With Kids here.

Read our interview with Jennifer Westfeldt here!

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